Bellator MMA is having an event tonight. Sadly, not many people know about it. That’s because not only is it taking place on the same night as UFC 198, but the co-main slot has become a bit cursed. First, the original co-headlining bout between former Strikeforce Champion and UFC contender Josh Thomson vs. former Bellator Champion Michael Chandler got scrapped. Then, longtime Russian MMA veteran Sergei Kharitonov got the co-main slot. He, too, got injured. As a result, a great card wound up getting tarnished.
The headlining bout, which was supposed to be between Light Heavyweight champion Liam McGeary and former UFC Light Heavyweight contender/Bellator: Dynamite tournament winner Phil Davis, also got postponed after McGeary got hurt.
Simply put, the card is a shell of itself. Only the top two bouts mean much. Alas, here are my picks for the main card.
Andre Fialho (6-0) vs. Rick Reger (7-1)
Opening up the main card is a bout between a budding star in Fialho and a solid prospect in Reger. Fialho has five knockouts and a submission win, and has only been to the second round once-his pro debut. Meanwhile, Reger is also a finisher, having gone the distance just once. He’s got four submission wins, and will try to take it to the ground. I don’t think he’ll succeed though. Fialho should walk out of the arena with another knockout win. Prediction: Fialho via tko, round 2.
Adam Piccolotti (7-0) vs. Ray Wood (7-1)
Another unbeaten prospect takes the stage next, as Adam Piccolotti looks to get another win. He’s not a quick finisher, but does tend to finish his fights. Meanwhile, Wood has four knockouts and two submissions amongst his seven career victories. This fight will end early, and while I like Piccolotti, I’ll pick the upset, just because. Prediction: Wood via tko, round 3.
Josh San Diego (6-1) vs. Jeremiah Labiano (9-4)
The next fight is a tossup. San Diego has submission capability, but also goes the distance on occasion. Labiano is more of a finisher, but is 2-3 in his last five. He’s alternated wins and losses in that stretch, and lost his last fight. However, I don’t see that pattern continuing. I’ll go with San Diego via decision. Hopefully, it’s a decent fight. Prediction: San Diego via decision.
Evangelista Santos (21-16) vs. Saad Awad (18-7)
Guess what everyone? Evangelista Santos is relevant again! Despite a 4-7 stretch between April 2007 and 2014, Santos has turned things around to go 2-0 in 2016. First, he headlined a Legacy card in January, defeating Artenas Young via decision. Then, just over three weeks ago, he shockingly submitted Bellator veteran Brennan Ward 30 seconds into a bout many though he would lose in. Now, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt who has won 18 fights via finish is looking for his third win in under four months.
Meanwhile, Awad is fighting for the first time since last August’s decision loss against Patricky Freire. The loss snapped a three-fight winning streak, and put his Bellator record to 6-3. He’s got seven knockouts and submissions apiece, and while Santos is scary, he has been knocked out a whopping ten times. I think tonight will be his 11th. Prediction: Awad via tko, round 2.
Phil Davis (16-3, 1NC) vs. Muhammad Lawal (19-4, 1NC)
With Light Heavyweight champion Liam McGeary out, former UFC Light Heavyweight contender and Bellator: Dynamite tournament winner Phil Davis will take on former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion and longtime Bellator contender Muhammad Lawal. Both are great wrestlers, but I see Davis having the edge. He also has more pop in his fists, but I see him winning a decision here. Prediction: Davis via decision.